By Pat Cummings
For Super Saturday, March 9
Race 2 - $250,000 Al Bastakiya (Listed), 1,900 meters (about 1 1/16 miles) – All-Weather (8:05 EST)
It’s clear that the well-regarded Soft Falling Rain won’t win the UAE Triple Crown as his connections have taken hold of the belief that he will perform best over shorter trips and have not entered him. Thus, the 3-year-old ranks in this race, the middle jewel prior to the concluding $2 million UAE Derby (UAE-II) March 30, are opened up considerably.
There just have to be distance limitations for #1 I’M BACK since he is by Australian champion sprinter Exceed and Excel. We really like this horse, but it’s difficult to envisage him seeing out this trip. When he won a handicap in October at Kempton, it was the third of three consecutive one-mile races over the all-weather surface there. I’m Back won in 1:37.50, while the subsequent two races were run in 1:39.62 and 1:39.27, the latter being a decent, albeit, lower level handicap. Can he get the added 300 meters (about three-sixteenths of a mile)? His second dam, Cape Verdi, won the One Thousand Guineas (Eng-I)) at Newmarket. But take a look at his performance against Soft Falling Rain in the UAE Two Thousand Guineas Trial; it was unabashedly solid. He covered four meters more than that winner, averaging just 0.1 KPH less than him, and stayed on well after breaking from a wide draw. He will definitely save ground from this draw, but his ability to get the trip is a serious question that leads us elsewhere. We expect he will be prominent, along with fellow early speed #5 DEAUVILLE PRINCE.
#11 SECRET NUMBER is a fascinating prospect for Godolphin. He was a winner in his only start at Kempton, going more than three seconds faster when winning on debut than a division of the same race on the same card. He absolutely blew the start—maybe five or six lengths behind the last place horse—and was ridden along immediately by Silvestre De Sousa to get into a contending position, then whittled away the ground to just get up. There are obvious question marks surrounding his lack of appearance previously at the Carnival, but this half-brother to Librettist and Dubai Destination does offer intrigue as a new face.
So what do you do with #10 ELLEVAL? He dominated his maiden win at Dundalk on all-weather before coming to Meydan and flashing in the Meydan Classic Trial. He had absolutely no pace to run at in the Meydan Classic last week and wheels back. He still did close some ground behind an absolute crawl, which does not seem to be the likely pace scenario here. We take the step to toss him, but readily admit that he could step up and improve. You can’t pick them all.
#2 ZAHEE was the fastest mover in the late stages of the Guineas Trial and backed it up with a third in the UAE Two Thousand Guineas (UAE-III), beaten only three lengths. He covered extra ground and was handy, while seemingly under a good hold throughout. In fact, Christophe Soumillon didn’t ask him to run until after Soft Falling Rain had already been pushed to the lead. He should see this trip better than some, and is a top contender. #4 SNOWBOARDER narrowly edged Zahee for the Guineas place and now gets his third jockey of the campaign. He was guided off the pace last time by De Sousa, checked slightly around the far turn, angled across horses in the straight and powered toward the front in the closing stages. According to the Trakus data, this son of Raven’s Pass ran the fastest final 400 meters of the Guineas, getting it in :23.45, which was :0.11 faster than Soft Falling Rain. He was :0.17 faster in the final 200 meters and :0.30 faster than Zahee. Given the likely early gallop being a legitimate one, Snowboarder is the selection.
1st - #4 SNOWBOARDER, 2nd - #2 ZAHEE, 3rd - #10 ELLEVAL
Race 3 - $175,000 Meydan Sprint (Listed), 1,000 meters (about 5 furlongs) – Turf (8:40 a.m. EST)
For those who have followed the Carnival this season, you recognize the difficulty in reviewing the form of the grass sprints. Consistency can be a rarity, but several runners in here offer it—#6 SOLE POWER, who nearly won this race last year, #8 RUSSIAN SOUL, second on three tries here in 2013, and #14 SHEA SHEA.
You have to excuse Shea Shea’s first-up run. As has been noted before, Mike de Kock’s first-time runners are 2-for-24 this season in the UAE, and this gelding by National Emblem surely needed the race. He also was giving away all sorts of weight to his rivals, anywhere from 10 to 16 pounds, which does not happen in this spot. He challenged for the lead in the final 400 meters before tiring, as was well within expectations. Shea Shea either hung right for Christophe Soumillon or just naturally drifted in that frame, but regardless, his penchant for the outside is well known. We have to think that he improves in a big way.
#6 SOLE POWER does not win often, with just one tally in the last 13 starts, but his runs off long breaks have been good ones. His seasonal debut in 2010 was a success at Dundalk; he was unprepared in his 2011 debut when thrown to the wolves in the Al Quoz Sprint (UAE-II), then bounced back in fine fettle in his 2012 opener, just getting nosed. Spread so far across the course at Meydan, he probably thought he was in front, and frankly, it looked that way until the photo came back. He ran a consistent season in Europe last year and is a major threat to impress again.
#13 INVINCIBLE ASH won this race a year ago as a rank outsider after having run a very similar last race to come into it. Her best performance of this season came a week ago when running on well from the tail of the field, but overall, this just feels like such a tougher race than what we saw when she won last year, and certainly, from last week’s third. Really, no result ever surprises us in these events, but if Shea Shea does not improve, we would be stunned.
1st - #14 SHEA SHEA, 2nd - #6 SOLE POWER, 3rd - #8 RUSSIAN SOUL
Race 4 - $200,000 Mahab Al Shimaal (UAE-III), 1,200 meters (about 6 furlongs) – All-Weather (9:15 a.m. EST)
While this race lacks Godolphin’s Mental, so impressive winning the Al Shindagha Sprint (UAE-III) last time, the third home and Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) winner from a season ago, #2 KRYPTON FACTOR, returns for his second start of the campaign. There was every reason to believe he needed that last race, which was a good one even in defeat, the fastest 1,200 meters of the season at Meydan. Al Shindagha second-place finisher Kavanagh came back to win on grass last week and Mental will be a relatively short price in the Golden Shaheen should he go there on Dubai World Cup day, March 30. Krypton Factor is probably the shortest favorite on the Super Saturday card, a deserving one, and our top pick.
#10 BALMONT MAST has poked his nose in the fray on two of three starts at Meydan, both with the most success when he was on the all-weather track. Without argument, he still seems a cut below the favorite, but has managed 10 placings from 13 starts on all-weather, which includes wins against the well-regarded Nocturnal Affair.
#8 AUGUST RUSH was third in this race last year, though it is buried on his form six starts back. He had shipped in via South Africa with the long quarantine and was well-presented by Herman Brown and his team to a solid result. Now, he’s with New York native and former Todd Pletcher assistant Seth Benzel and seems a very live longshot. Given more time to acclimatize this season, and a respectable effort first-up on the all-weather when he was ridden by Ryan Moore, with whom he is partnered again today, he is definitely the value in the race—and an upset threat.
It’s go time for #9 FARIDAT who absolutely must put in a good effort to make it to the Dubai Golden Shaheen; that’s why he is running here. When your feet are put to the fire, expect some quicker strides by this old boy. United Color’s win here last week was so significantly slower than the Al Shindagha Sprint, we’ll be surprised if any of that form holds up. This guy has a chance to prove me wrong, but we side against.
1st - #2 KRYPTON FACTOR, 2nd - #8 AUGUST RUSH, 3rd - #10 BALMONT MAST
Race 5 - $250,000 Dubai City of Gold (UAE-II), 2,410 meters (about 1 1/2 miles) – Turf (9:50 a.m. EST)
We know that #7 TREBLE JIG is the king of the dirt at Jebel Ali. But Jebel Ali this is not, and every time he’s attempted to run with the big boys, he’s been trounced. Against lesser company, even on the grass down the road in Abu Dhabi, Treble Jig has been a contender. But in the course of this race, Treble Jig will try to take them all the way, a tactic that won this race a year ago with Mikhail Glinka.
Likely to be close is #4 CAVALRYMAN, who we actually thought was the lone speed in this race last year when he finished second and was nowhere close to the pace. It’s tough to say where he will be given his bipolar running style, but his wins at Sandown and York are in lesser company and over longer trips.
#2 AWAIT THE DAWN was so impressive winning two weeks ago, setting a course record for 2,000 meters after Starboard went full bore early to set the stage. He might end up a bit closer in this race, but he is deserving of plenty of attention given how easily he did it. As Mike de Kock has said, this guy is a "project," similar to Viscount Nelson a season ago. He toted 60 kilograms (132 pounds) last time and is back down to 57 (126), where the rest of the field meets him.
#5 MASTERSTROKE was a game but distant third behind Solemia and Orfevre in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I), preceded by a win in the Grand Prix de Deauville (Fr-II). Bottom line, he can win this, and most of Mahmood Al Zarooni’s wins this Carnival have come first off the layoff. But in what is generally viewed as the best performance in his career, Masterstroke had everything go his way. Settled on the rail behind pacesetting Don Bosco, he just got up in time to edge Gatewood, who had one win from four subsequent starts in Australia. These clearly are the types of horses Zarooni is succeeding with during this Carnival, and while he is eligible to improve in his 4-year-old debut, we still aren’t bowled over by Masterstroke.
Outside of Italy, #6 JAKKALBERRY’s only other win came in the inaugural running of the American St. Leger at Arlington Park. He was a no-brainer that day with a solid early tempo, but in other settings, he’s just an average plodder, and his third in the Melbourne Cup (Aus-I), while solid for his form line, is nothing more than typical for this guy. American longer-distance turf races are weak compared to their international counterparts, and Jakkalberry beat little of substance at Arlington. He seems best chanced with a placing.
#8 LAAJOOJ was well beaten in this race a year ago, but returned with gusto in what was a course record until Await the Dawn lowered it later. His final 400-meter split in that race was an even :24, :0.53 faster than the second placer, Naqshabban. Comparatively, over similar conditions, Await the Dawn came home in :23.88. They were even performances, but the edge goes to the de Kock runner.
1st - #2 AWAIT THE DAWN, 2nd - #5 MASTERSTROKE, 3rd - #8 LAAJOOJ
Race 6 - $200,000 Burj Nahaar (UAE-III), 1,600 meters (about one mile) – All-Weather (10:25 a.m. EST)
#2 DULLAHAN is undefeated on all-weather surfaces; in fact, all of his three career wins have come in grade I races on such tracks. This guy has been pointed to Dubai for months and the primary goal is for Donegal Racing’s colt to run in the $10 million Dubai World Cup (UAE-I). He cuts back to a one-turn mile, with a slight dogleg in the backstretch, and it feels like it will just be too short. Trainer Dale Romans can’t want more than a leg-stretcher from this guy, and if there is a time to play against him on all-weather, it’s Saturday.
That being said, the images we’ve seen from his early morning appearance at Meydan have been striking, and this coming from a horse who some called “DULL-ahan” ahead of the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), in which he ran third, claiming he looked quite unimpressive and bland in his morning track work. We have nothing but good things to say about him and best wishes, but if you are a bettor, you almost have to bet against unless his price is above 6-1 or so, and we don’t see that happening on the international commingled tote.
There is pace in this race, which should enable an even affair. #1 ROYAL RIDGE can go forward and #3 NAWWAAR should go close as well. #12 CAPITAL ATTRACTION goes from the front and so does #13 RED JAZZ, third in the last two runnings of the Godolphin Mile (UAE-II). Several others are known to prompt the gallop, including #8 AESOP’S FABLES, getting his all-weather debut for Godolphin, and #7 UNBRIDLED OCEAN, who gave a very solid winning effort from a wide draw in his first local appearance for Besilu Stables.
See which way this is going? It really looks to set it up for someone who can settle mid-pack and pounce. With six horses likely wanting to grab a tidy position, eyes turn to four horses: #11 BARBECUE EDDIE, #5 AFRICAN STORY, #4 MOONWALK IN PARIS and Dullahan.
We must first address Barbecue Eddie. This guy is a personal favorite; you have to love it when a horse is doing his best running, in flat races, at the age of 9. With all due respect to him, and as we clearly addressed when he won the Al Maktoum Challenge Round I (UAE-II) in January, if there was a time he was going to win a group-level stake, it was going to be then. He ran credibly in the Firebreak Stakes (UAE-III) when third beaten 2 1/4 lengths behind Moonwalk in Paris, and had to cover seven meters more than the winner according to Trakus, which equates to just more than his margin of defeat. That’s encouraging. He also averaged 60.5 KPH, just more than Moonwalk in Paris’s 60.4KPH, over the course of the race. He ran a bang-up event. Reunited with Dane O’Neill and given a slightly wider draw than he’s been blessed with in previous starts, he might cover some extra ground again, but he basically ran as well as he did in his Maktoum Challenge win.
The question of the race, at least to us, is whether or not Moonwalk in Paris can work out a good enough trip yet again. Ahmad Ajtebi has to have a ton of confidence in this horse, but will he find the gaps and the splits as he did before? There is every reason to believe he will drift back off the speed and hope the gap comes, and it’s almost asking for trouble to tip him on top, expecting he manages a similar trip yet again. Not to mention, a suspension at this point of the season could rule Ajtebi off for the World Cup meeting (he got three days for his ride on Moonwalk in Paris in the Firebreak, and a four-day ban for another incident the same week, served concurrently). Fulbright, the late closer who finished second in the Firebreak, came back to run a solid third behind the progressive Trade Storm in the Zabeel Mile (UAE-II) last week, doing enough to legitimize the form, while well-beaten Out of Bounds and Daddy Long Legs weren’t completely disgraced in handicap company as well. A very tough call.
African Story makes his return to the races off the long layoff. Until he proves otherwise, he’s the best horse in the race, at the distance on this track, with his four-length win in this race, just off course-record time, a stellar piece of form. Mickael Barzalona has not been in his best riding nick of late, but there has to be confidence getting on this gelding for the first time.
Handicapping how and where trouble might find some of these horses is a brutal task, and we are clear to note that while Dullahan has the pace in his favor, almost all other signs (the cut-back, the layoff, the eyes on the much bigger prize, the new surroundings, the quick turnaround from the travel as he just got on course Monday) suggest that we’ll simply play him to have a good race, with anything more than a placing a bonus for the Americans. In the end, this is a phenomenal horse race. Tentatively, we give the edge to a French Michael Jackson wannabe.
1st - #4 MOONWALK IN PARIS, 2nd - #11 BARBECUE EDDIE, 3rd - #5 AFRICAN STORY
Race 7 - $400,000 Maktoum Challenge Round 3 (UAE-I), 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles) – All-Weather (11 a.m. EST)
The presence of #1 LITTLE MIKE in this race will lead you to believe that the tote will reflect plenty of heavy hitting. This event couldn’t be closer to a prep for the Dale Romans trainee, who was a winner of the Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT), Arlington Million (gr. IT) and Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) at distances from 1 1/8 miles up to 1 1/2 miles. Little Mike has tremendous tactical speed; when he is allowed to cruise in 400-meter sectionals of approximately :24 each, which is quick at Meydan, he’s practically unstoppable.
Initially, we thought they would keep the son of Spanish Steps limited to grass, but this is an experiment to see how well he might get over the all-weather and then maybe run for the $10 million World Cup pot. Almost no result will disappoint, because this guy has clearly identified that when he dislikes a surface, he stops (see his run at Belmont last October). Tactical speed is such a weapon in these races, and the rail draw makes Little Mike more dangerous than we would have originally expected.
There is, and should be, plenty of attention paid to the horses that ran in the Maktoum Challenge Round II (UAE-II). That race was incredibly slow early, and those closest to the action stayed on. Clearly, # 4 HUNTER’S LIGHT was quite impressive in backing up his dynamic win on all-weather in Turkey. The sixth, eighth and ninth finishers all came back to win from this race, including the very impressive effort from Await the Dawn, who runs in the Dubai City of Gold.
What do you do with #6 SURFER and #2 PRINCE BISHOP? The latter had never shown the ability to lead through the early stages and did that, then stayed on for third, while Surfer got a massive class test and passed it staying for second. Still, both were longshots in that last race, and their final positions screamed of circumstance. As the pace goes, so too does Richard Mullen, who is the best judge of conditions and form analysis of any rider in the colony.
#7 SAINT BAUDOLINO was the only horse to make any ground from off the pace in his Carnival debut last time, essentially winning the race for horses that weren’t in close attendance to the early gallop. He looked good, but how much will he kick on from there?
#13 KASSIANO is the only three-time winner this Carnival, but seems much too slow to compete with these, despite his significant appreciation for this surface. This is a monumental class test after running in middling handicap company throughout the campaign.
#3 TRAILBLAZER was extremely studdish when we saw him in the mornings at the Breeders’ Cup and he ran a wide fourth behind Little Mike. He covered 38 feet more than Little Mike, which equates to almost 4 ½ lengths of extra ground according to Trakus; note that he was beaten just 2 1/4 lengths. Like Little Mike, this seems a timely experiment. Well drawn, he will likely chase Little Mike and hope to get the first run. If he takes to the surface, he’s a longshot worth including in plays. Japan won this race in 2010 with Red Desire beating eventual Dubai World Cup winner Gloria de Campeao. It was also Red Desire’s first time on an all-weather surface and she bolted in the narrowest of winners before a flat run for the big prize. Trailblazer and Red Desire are different, but you see where the connections are going, attempting to take a similar path.
You can’t mention all of them, but suffice to say that if we talked much about the rest of the field, our final impressions would be mostly negative toward their chances here, so we are prepared to let them beat us.
We see Little Mike absolutely being sent to secure an early position up front. If he fades, so be it, but the Romans team must put him in his normal spot and hope Kieran Fallon can get him to settle anywhere near as well as did Joe Bravo or especially Ramon Dominguez in the U.S. Let him get away with an easy lead and it’s race over. Mullen will probably elect to sit off Little Mike with Surfer, and Paul Hanagan should send #12 HAATHEQ to a contending early position, while likely wide, with Trailblazer just behind them.
The second flight should see Hunter’s Light, #8 DADDY LONG LEGS and Monterosso, with a potentially wide #9 TREASURE BEACH next. Prince Bishop, an early leader last time, would shock us if he went forward again, so we expect him to sit, along with Saint Baudolino, with #10 JAMR, #11 MENDIP and Kassiano off the pace as well. Kassiano is likely going to have to drop back given his post, because if he runs to mid-pack, you have to think he’ll be planted in the cheap seats.
As good as Fallon can be, we are riddled with angst in thinking he just won’t have the same touch on this guy that we saw from others in the U.S., not to mention the layoff and the travel. Still, we could easily see him walk the dog and kick away and the next thing you know, he’s co-favored for the Dubai World Cup. But in the end, we play against that happening. These Meydan all-weather races can sometimes play like grass races.
Even with the awkward pace setup from last race, Hunter’s Light was still ridiculously faster than anyone else in the race. His only loss on all-weather was in his career debut, obviously forgivable. This looks a phenomenal renewal of the race, and we can see any of six legitimate winners. In this order: Hunter’s Light, Little Mike, Saint Baudolino, Trailblazer, Monterosso and maybe Surfer on his absolute best. That’s a whole bunch of words for one race to tap into the morning line favorite on the international tote but we did.
1st - #4 HUNTER’S LIGHT, 2nd - #7 SAINT BAUDOLINO, 3rd - #1 LITTLE MIKE
Race 8 - $300,000 Jebel Hatta (UAE-I), 1,800 meters (about 1 1/8 miles) – Turf (11:35 a.m. EST)
The concern remains that #5 IGUGU might need this race; the goal with her has always been to make it to Dubai World Cup day. We tipped her in the Balanchine (UAE-II) thinking she could win at less than her best, then saw her set record sectionals and finish only four lengths back in third. Meanwhile, the other filly that ran with her finished next-to-last, 19 lengths behind winner Sajjhaa. Igugu ran a record race in defeat, especially considering the other two horses to run the second and third-fastest splits in 1,800-meter races at Meydan were eased and distanced. With Igugu reunited with Anthony Delpech, who is well-aware of the power this mare has, we’re back on her in this spot, and the price should be much better than it was when she was beaten at an insane 1-5 on the international tote.
#10 THE APACHE did something highly unusual; he won first-up for Mike de Kock at the Carnival, taking the Al Rashidiya (UAE-II) Jan. 31, the trainer’s only horse other than Soft Falling Rain to do that this campaign. We really aren’t certain whether this makes The Apache look like a beast or if #4 CITY STYLE, runner-up that day, was in need of the race too, but both should move forward. Still, that was more than a second slower than #3 SAJJHAA’s win in the Balanchine over Igugu. Was she a beneficiary of circumstance last time? Can she come back with the same gusto yet again? And how is the market going to treat Igugu in this spot? Tough questions.
#2 MASTER OF HOUNDS won this race a year ago making all the running, but that seems highly unlikely this year in a better field. We are suspecting that he is more a rabbit than a hound in this race, pressed on to go forward and set the table for Igugu or The Apache to keep them from doing too much too soon, specifically the champion mare.
If the tempo is quite quick, it might also benefit #6 SO BEAUTIFUL, who ran into the fast fractions set by Starboard behind Await the Dawn last time. He’s danced a few dances and was well-beaten in the Al Rashidiya, but could get a meaningful setup to grab a slice.
We just refuse to get fancy having thought so highly of Igugu’s defeat. The Apache’s first up win was impressive considering the connections, and he should improve. On their best days, though, Igugu is better than The Apache.
1st - #5 IGUGU, 2nd - #4 CITY STYLE, 3rd - #10 THE APACHE
Pat’s Picks for the 2013 Carnival to date: 48 selections - 12 first (25%) – 6 second – 4 third